Badbrains And Rationalism

[CW for: discussion of self harm, overwhelming emotions and suicidal ideation]

I have this mental issue that has not been diagnosed yet where I get absolutely overwhelming emotions and sometimes also self-harm urges and suicidal ideation.
And I don’t know how to be a rationalist about this.

If you’re used to calmly thinking everything through and carefully evaluating value statements (as in, „I am a failure!“ or „I am a good artist!“ or „This is a nice person!“) and suddenly you’re overwhelmed with a strong negative emotion so hard you cannot even speak without risking yelling at people and crying it’s fucking scary.
Usually this happens if I mess up in some way or feel like I have failed or done something wrong, and if I don’t catch myself early enough I slide down the slippery slide of feeling like I’m The Worst Person Ever and should to cease to exist because of that. (and I don’t always have the possibility to catch myself, sometimes such situations happen too fast to even think about it.)

All rational skills switch off. I can’t realistically evaluate a situation and just feel an overwhelming sadness or anger that feels like it consumes everything and will last forever.
I don’t even think about evaluating whether the assumption „I am a failure at everything and a bad person, therefore I don’t deserve nice things and should hurt myself or die.“ is true or false it just is the default and it is a very strong feeling that overwhelms absolutely everything.

In such a situation thinking outside the chain of „You’re bad and need to die.“ and other fun thoughts is like trying to yell against an electric guitar connected to a hugeass festival amplifier turned up to full volume, except you often don’t even have the energy to yell.

Explaining what is wrong is also almost impossible, the emotion is so strong I just …can’t speak or explain what even is wrong, getting words out is extremely difficult.

I used to deal with this by cutting but that is not a healthy coping mechanism.
So far I have not found anything helping that easily.

What slightly helps is:

  • Physical exertion, that usually clears my mind enough to think again. However, that’s not always an option.
  • Pain that leaves no permanent damage (like pinching myself, but not hard enough to bleed) or other strong sensory inputs.
  • Trying to breathe deeply and telling myself that I’m supposed to think rationally. Sometimes holding onto a positive thought, like thinking about my boyfriend or about huddling under a nice, fluffy blanket with a cup of my favourite tea helps.
  •  just ignoring everything and doing some maths in my head. This really is calming, maths is logical and always there, and things like integration by parts don’t change at random like people or emotions do. Also if I do some of the harder stuff I have to concentrate on it so much that I almost forget about the emotion.

This is kind of like dealing with Dementors in HPMOR, as incredibly silly as it sounds, I found the chapters where Harry is fighting the Dementors oddly inspiring.
I mean, there are similarities. Overwhelming fear and despair, the feeling like it lasts forever, like it’s impossible to think…yeah, I think Dementors are a good metaphor for this kind of emotions. Except chocolate doesn’t really help.
(In the unlikely case Eliezer Yudkowsky sees this: thanks for that!!!)
However, all of these are not exactly the most viable and helpful solutions. Before I can get myself to think clearly I usually already have snapped at someone or somehow tried to hurt myself.
I wonder how other people deal with this.


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